Every Book I’ve Read So Far This Year (and Whether or Not You Should Read Them, Too)

When I started this blog back in August, I had intended to post book reviews of each book I read.

That didn’t happen for a number of reasons, the most influential being that I’m too lazy to write full essays about every book I read. So, I’ve decided to do a little roundup every three months of what I’ve read – using Goodreads to help me remember what I’ve read – and whether or not you should read these books, too.

 

JANUARY

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

What’s it about?

This is Jessica Mitford’s autobiography, covering her childhood with her famous aristocratic family in rural England, her socialist rebellion, marriage to her cousin Esmond Romilly and their adventures in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and pre-World War II America.

 

Did I like this book?

Yes. But I had a few problems with it. (You can read a little about that in this post.)

 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes, I can think of a few reasons why you should read this book. You should read this book if you, like me, are an Anglophile and are therefore intrigued by the Mitford sisters. You should also read this book if you generally like engaging and funny personal essays or 20th century social history.

 

How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti

What’s it about?

This is a tough one to describe, but it’s basically about a fictionalized version of the author trying to write a play, have friends, talk about art and figure out how a person should be (duh).

 

Did I like this book?

Yes. I actually wrote a whole post about how much I liked it.

 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes, I think so. My book club read it and many of the members disliked it. (Like, a lot.) But we had a great discussion about the book and many of its themes and I think you should read it simply because it will make you think. (Like, a lot.)

 

FEBRUARY

The Best American Short Stories 2012 ed. by Tom Perrotta and Heidi Pitlor

What’s it about?

Well, it’s a book of 20 short stories, so it’s about 20 different things.

 

Did I like this book?

On the whole, I liked it a medium amount. But that’s because I liked some stories and disliked others, so.

 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

If you like short stories or you want to try reading them for the first time since grade school, sure! I say go for it. There were quite a few stories (ahem, George Saunders) that I found difficult to get through. But there were also many stores that I really, really loved. (I would say Eric Puchner’s “Beautiful Monsters” is reason enough to buy this book because I don’t think you can find the whole story online.)

 

NW by Zadie Smith 

What’s it about?

It’s about a few people who grew up in the council estates of Northwest London and that has affected each of them.

 

Did I like this book?

I know “hate” is a strong word and all, but I feel OK saying that I hated this book. I wrote a whole thing about how much I didn’t like it. But then my book club discussed it and I hated it a lot less.

 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

No. I know, I know. You LOVE Zadie Smith. I do too. But I’m telling you not to read it. This book made no sense. Re-read White Teeth instead.

 

MARCH

Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor

 

What’s it about?

It’s the sequel to A Time of Gifts, so it’s the continuation of Fermor’s account of walking from “the hook of Holland” to Constantinople in the early 1930s.

 

Did I like this book?

Yes. It provides a really interesting picture of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire just before World War II. And like, reading about somebody WALKING across Europe is just really awesome. Especially when they are as beautiful a writer as Fermor.

 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes, but definitely read A Time of Gifts first. (I thought that A Time of Gifts was maybe the better book, anyway.) If you like 20th century European history or travel writing, this is a must-read. And if you like travel reading and have never read any books by Fermor, pick this up immediately!

 

The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy

What’s it about?

An American girl named Honey Flood goes to London and seduces an older writer in order to get something that she very much wants.

 

Did I like this book?

Yes. I loved loved LOVED Dundy’s first novel, The Dud Avocado, which I read last year. (I can confidently say that it’s one of my favorite books ever.) I liked this book not quite as much, which means I loved it.

 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes. I would read The Dud Avocado first, but that’s just my opinion. The Old Man and Me is a great first-person narrative and is full of plot twists – and plenty of comic relief – that will make you want to keep reading.

 

The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes

What’s it about?

In the early 1920s, a young Welsh aristocrat seeks to escape the attention surrounding him after he’s suspected of murdering a child. He ends up at a cousin’s castle outside of Munich just before the Munich Putsch. This is the first book in an intended trilogy called The Human Predicament. Hughes published the second novel, The Wooden Shepherdess, but never made it through the third.

 

Did I like this book?

Yes. I devoured this one, which surprised me because it looked like it was going to be pretty long and dense.

 

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes. It was a very engaging read and had all of my favorite things: characters with interesting names, English aristocrats in the 1920s, Germany in the 1920s and murder. Also, it’s the first novel I’ve ever read in which Hitler is an actual character, so there’s that.

 

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

 

What’s it about?

Grann’s search for the city that British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett sought on his last journey through the Amazon, as well as for evidence of Fawcett’s demise. (Fawcett, his son and a friend disappeared during the 1925 journey and were never heard from again.)

Did I like this book?

Yes. I didn’t really want to pick it up at first but then I did and I couldn’t put it down. (I tweeted about that and David Grann responded to me and I almost cried.)

Should you read it? Why or why not?

Yes. This is a really great example of creative non-fiction. I promise you’ll be hooked once you start reading.

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